Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Jungian Look at "The Secret"

Have you read "The Secret?"

I tried to get it from my public library (just for research). No dice. They had eight copies--all out. Same with my sister's library. On the bestseller list for 33 weeks, the book's popularity reveals....what? A gaping wound in our national psyche? Are we feeling so desperate and incomplete that we hunger for magical powers?

The Secret claims we can "attract" anything we want, through our thoughts. If that were true, I'd have won the Pulitzer Prize by now. Still, psychologists have proven that chipper attitudes can lead to happy results. Think "self-fulfilling prophecy." Even some brain scientists confirm: when we make hopeful statements to ourselves, we train our brains to look for those hoped-for events.

Just where ordinary (not supernatural) influence begins and ends is debatable. But, even if we can, through our thoughts (AND actions), create change, are we alone at Life's helm? "The Secret" tells me how to get what I want when I want it. But how do I reconcile my self-absorbed quests with a spiritual path?

For many years, I pursued a career in the theatre. In addition to hard work (as director, producer, or playwright), I also tried conjuring success through affirmations. I described in great detail all the awards and acclaim coming to me. Then, at the peak of these drills, one of my productions was panned in a local paper. Devastated, I blew out my candles, stopped affirmations, and waited to recover. I wasn't merely disheartened with my "create your own reality" program; I found myself reborn to a new and deep humility. If I believed in God, maybe it was time to surrender to Him (Her)? Maybe it was time to stop demanding my own will?

Meanwhile, I was also reading lots of Jungian psychology. These books said that my conscious will was only one piece of the puzzle. We create our circumstances, not through magic or mysticism, but through the unconscious behaviors and signals we constantly send out. Jungian therapists delve into the dreams, coincidences, and events of their clients, to understand these dynamics.

Yet, Jungians also believe we are not the sole drivers of our fate. There is a Reality, beyond our control and understanding--the "collective unconscious." Jungians don't need to speak of "God," but they do talk of yielding to the ‘Self': the God in us. So, we must accept responsibility for our actions (and even some outside events), while also adopting a healthy humility. We admit our small place in the universe.

What "The Secret" leaves out is this healthy humility. Following the book's premises, we're left isolated in our ego's tiny self-absorbed world.

For Jung, our waking consciousness (ego) is like a cork floating on the ocean. We cannot know this vast reality but we can acknowledge it. Instead of seeking to control our circumstances, we can follow the more difficult path---surrendering to a Greater Reality, while striving to live responsibly.

No comments: